Monday, July 24, 2017

Build your brain: Weeks 1 and 2

While my toddler and baby storytimes are going strong, my preschool storytime has been struggling with attendance for a while. Based on conversations with other children's librarians, this seems to be a common problem. Between preschool schedules (which seem to be increasingly offering all day options) and activities it can be hard to get preschoolers into the library.

To solve this problem I figured a change was in order. I knew I'd be switching up the day and time of this program, but I also wanted to add another hook to get people's attention. Our summer CSLP theme of "Build a Better World" gave me the perfect inspiration. For this summer, my preschool storytime is being rebranded as "Build Your Brain".

The idea behind this theme is to do something similar to the science based storytimes I did a few years ago: stories and songs, followed by interactive stations. The major difference this time is that there will be a little more emphasis on the brain/educational benefits of storytime. Each week we will focus on a different "brain building" thing and follow with stations related to that theme. This not only provides more fun for the kids, but also more useful information for the parents.

Week 1: Stories

Our first session started out strong. We had great attendance, and started out with reading themed books and songs (specifics found on my storytime blog). Our literacy tip for the week was the loving feeling from sharing stories together can actually help build brain connections. Our meeting room wasn't available for stations for this session, so I adapted by doing a "Favorite Book Character" scavenger hunt in the kid's room. I made a simple form with some favorite characters and asked the kids to find where these character's books would be in the library. As a reward for completing the scavenger hunt, they received a reading themed sticker.

Week 2: Music

Once again we began with a book and songs, but this week we got to transition to a variety of stations afterward. We had four different stations related to music. Our literacy tip this week was that music helps our brains learn to identify the parts that make up words.

Station 1: Painting with a shaker egg

I've done painting with objects in our plastic tubs several ways before. For instance we've painted with toy cars and our plastic sensory shapes. I chose shaker eggs this time because I thought they would work perfectly with our musical theme.

Station 2: Guess the object in the sour cream container

For this station all I did was put some random objects (coins, marbles, cotton balls, etc) in a series of sour cream containers. The kids had to shake them to guess what was in each one. The best part about this station was it shows parents how easy it is to make your own instruments at home.

Station 3: Instruments

I couldn't have a music themed program without putting out the library's shakers and rhythm sticks. I supplemented these instruments with homemade "guitars" made out of pans and rubber bands. Not sure where I saw that idea but it is definitely a great one!

Station 4: Making a toilet paper roll shaker

Toilet paper rolls are always a staple craft supply, but they have seemed to come in more handy than ever this summer. We used rolls, tape and beans to make our own shakers. Afterwards they kids got to decorate them with crayons and markers.

So far my plan seems to be working well and attendance for this age group has been up. We've got three more weeks to go and I look forward to updating you about them very soon! If you have any questions about this or any other program feel free to let me know.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Build a Better World: Toys for the Humane Society

It's that time of year! The joys and chaos of summer reading are here once more. In honor of the "Build a Better World" theme many libraries are using I thought it would be a good time to share one of my favorite ways to help kids improve the world: making toys for the local Humane Society. It is not only a good tie in for the summer theme, but something great to do year round. This was one of our first summer programs this year, and it is definitely a program that I will do again.

How it worked:
I registered for 20 kids from Grades K-6. The program filled up pretty quickly and we wound up with a total of 24. I normally divide this age group into two, but thought combining would work better for the summer months. I explained several ideas for DIY pet toy crafts that I found through Pinterest and created instructional handouts on each. The kids were able to choose from these suggestions or make something completely of their own design.

Supplies needed: 
Toilet paper rolls
Construction paper
Wooden dowels
Feathers or pom poms
Pipe cleaners
Fleece strips
Fleece pieces of various sizes

What we made: 
  • Cat wands: We used yarn to tie pom poms and feathers to wooden dowels. This was an idea I've used previously and one I thought would be easy enough for even the youngest kids.
  • Toilet paper tube toys: I found two different versions of cat toys made out of toilet paper tubes. One involves using pieces to create a small ball, while the other involves cutting the edges into the shape of a sunshine.
  • Yarn pom poms: A fork, yarn and scissors are all that is needed to create your own pom pom. This could stand on it's own or be added to a cat wand.
  • Fleece dog pull toys: Our fleece toys were a big hit. We made braided rope toys, as well as a variety of others. Fleece can be expensive, but luckily ours was donated by one of my crafty coworkers, who was glad to get it out of her own stockpile.
  • Fleece tie blankets: A few of the older kids already knew how to make tie blankets and were happy to make small ones for the animals.

Tips and tricks:  
  • The handouts definitely seemed to help provide the kids with some needed direction.
  • The fleece toys were probably the biggest hit with the kids, as well as the ones I think the Humane Society will appreciate the most.
  • Kids may want to take supplies home and work on further crafts to donate. If you can allow some time between the program and when you drop off the toys this can work out great.
  • Call your local Humane Society before hand. Not only will they be able to verify that they accept donations, they may even have more suggestions for possible toys to make.

Hopefully these ideas come in handy as you help kids do a little good at your library or anywhere else. If you have any questions you can get in touch with me here or via Twitter (@MsKellyTweets).